Former President Donald Trump attended day two of the civil fraud case against him that's gone to trial in New York. After flip-flopping several times on his opinion of the presiding judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, he made a disparaging post on social media mid-day about Justice Engoron's staffer.
Justice Engoron is known to regularly confer with his clerk Allison Greenfield on cases. President Trump had made a post on Truth Social, linking to an Instagram account with a photo of Ms. Greenfield with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), attacking her and claiming she was "running" the case and making unsubstantiated claims about their relationship. The post was amplified by a campaign email blast on Tuesday, and millions had seen it.
When the court broke for a lunch break, two closed-door meetings were held. After a delay, the trial resumed at 3 p.m. and the judge explained that he had ordered the post be taken down.
The post was deleted by the time the trial resumed.
"Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable and inappropriate," Justice Engoron said. He added that he had already warned both parties against such attacks on Monday.
“Consider this a gag order on all parties with respect to posting or publicly speaking about any member of my staff,” he said, adding that violations of this order would not be tolerated and would result in sanctions.
President Trump's legal team has already been sanctioned by Justice Engoron multiple times, who ruled that the attorneys had made "frivolous" arguments repeatedly even after he had dismissed them.
Last September, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the former president claiming he defrauded the state by inflating his net worth to obtain more favorable deals from insurers and banks between 2011 and 2021. She is seeking $250 million in damages and to bar President Trump and his two adult sons from doing business in the state.
The judge has already ruled President Trump liable for fraud and ordered the dissolution of the Trump Organization, and the trial will deal with several other claims Ms. James made in regard to falsifying financial statements, as well as the fate of President Trump's businesses and properties.
After repeated attempts from President Trump's side to delay the case from going to trial, the case kicked off Monday with an unprecedented appearance from the former president. He entered the courthouse last minute, gave multiple remarks to the press, and closely scrutinized the evidence presented in court from the front row.
President Trump, who is also polling as the frontrunner in the 2024 presidential elections, told reporters he would much rather be campaigning, but was attending the trial to "expose" the "fraud" and the "scam" that had been committed against him by what he described as a "rigged" prosecutor, case, and judge.
Donald Bender, former partner at tax investigation firm Mazars USA, was the first to take to the witness stand. He was questioned by Kevin Wallace, attorney for the prosecution, on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, and was to be cross-examined by the defense Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Bender worked closely with the Trump Organization from 2011 to 2021, and prepared President Trump's personal tax returns from 2009 to 2018. He said he spent about half his time working on the Trump Organization and frequently went to the Trump Tower offices.
Mr. Bender was shown document after document from 2011 to 2020, and asked repeatedly whether he would have submitted the financial statements if he knew that the Trump Organization had withheld information.
The prosecution sought to establish that it was the Trump Organization's responsibility to provide accurate accounting, not Mazars.
Mr. Bender testified to a letter from the Trump Organization that contained language stating it was responsible for the accurate accounting, noting that documents contained a red "prepared by the client" notation and that figures were copied and pasted from what he was provided by the Trump Organizations in some documents. He also testified regarding a letter from the Trump Organization stating that it had not knowingly withheld any relevant financial data.